Merchant brigands are groups of NPPs that sail to uncolonized islands and gather commodities that spawn there. They then ship them in bulk to the port where they will receive the most PoE for their commodities. If the merchants have won any battles against players along the way, they will sell their plunder (e.g., cannon balls) at this time as well.
Merchant brigands, unlike usual brigands carry the title <Merchants> instead of <Brigands> on their ship's panel. Like Brigands, they can rank from sailors to imperials. Merchants are attackable while sailing, but they never give anything besides commodities. The value of these commodities is generally considered poor for the amount of effort spent, and is almost always considerably less than that of a brigand ship of equivalent difficulty.
Merchant brigands replaced the former game mechanic of players foraging for goods.